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Sundance Slates Franken

Robert Redford's Sundance Channel is planning to air TV version of Air America Radio's Al Franken Show, to run three times a day starting Sept. 7. It will be the first-ever daily series on the network.

The hour TV version of the Franken radio show will replay at 2:30 a.m. and again at 7 a.m. It will be taped at Air America's studios during the day's radio broadcast (Howard Stern and Don Imus do similar cable TV radiocasts). The 2:30 a.m. version is to target West Coast EchoStar viewers who get the East Coast feed.

The struggling Air America network has been an effort to inject some liberal chat into the primarily conservative talk radio landscape.

The Franken show is scheduled to run only until November. Add that election run-up timing to the fact that Sundance is re-running Tanner 88, the 1988 Robert Altman/Gary Trudeau mockumentary on a Democratic presidential candidate, which will air every Tuesday in September, followed by a new retake/update on the same subject, Tanner on Tanner, featuring the original stars, plus footage and real life politicos from last week's Democratic convention, which will run every Tuesday thereafter until the election, and the scheduling could bet taken as a political statement against the current Republican administration?

Not so according to Sundance programmer Adam Pincus. "Sundance does not have a political agenda," he says. Pincus says the programming is intended to take advantage of the general interest in politics.

But does he expect to attract Republicans with his planned lineup? "We think plenty of conservative viewers will want to watch [Franken] in horror and fascination," he says, "people who want to shout back at the television."

As for Tanner, he says that the show is more about the nature of the political animal, Donkey and Elephant, and the "delusional tenacity" of documentary filmmakers, than it is about politics per se.

Pincus said Sundance could elect to continue the Franken series after November and that he is treating the September-November run as an eight-week tryout.

"Although this whole TV medium is new to me, I am thrilled that ‘The Al Franken Show’ will now be seen on Sundance Channel, even though it means I will have to wear clothing during the program," said Franken, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "Besides, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was one of my favorite movies."